Eden Hill Journal

Comments, dreams, stories, and rantings from a middle-aged native of Maine living on a shoestring and a prayer in the woods of Maine. My portion of the family farm is to be known as Eden Hill Farm just because I want to call it that and because that's the closest thing to the truth that I could come up with. If you enjoy what I write, email me or make a comment. If you enjoy Eden Hill, come visit.

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Location: Maine, United States

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

The Dominance Thing

I am about to let you in on a closely-kept family secret. Perhaps you can guess from the title line what that secret involves, but just who is it that I am about to write about is the question. Go ahead and guess if you’d like.

When I look back on my growing up years and on the people I met, the families and homes I visited as a child, I can’t recall anyone being seriously abusive around me except for one very memorable exception where a woman my mother was calling on in town saw me in her flower garden beside her front door, yelled at me, then picked me up and threw me across her front yard head-first into a large hardwood tree. I may have been around two years old at the time, or younger. It knocked me unconscious.

I may have been around other abusers but I didn’t witness abuse. I have been told that my grandfather in New York was abusive to his wife when he had been drinking and I have no doubt. She seemed to look beat-up to me when she was older so it wouldn’t surprise me.

But my point here is that as a young adult I was clueless about abusive relationships. I had no idea at all about what went on back then in families and continues to go on now, hidden by the family from anyone outside the immediate household, even from the closest of friends.

Since I met my in-laws, though, things have changed for me. I’ve become quite familiar with a game my wife and her two brothers learned to play as children taught to them by their parents, particularly by their mother.

I didn’t know my wife’s family when I was younger. They moved to town after I had finished school. I first met them when my wife’s two brothers worked ski patrol at the ski area back in the mid-seventies. They brought me home one day to let me meet their parents.

I could not believe how their mother verbally lashed them about virtually anything and everything. She did it not just to the boys but to her husband as well. As I got to know them better I learned that it was a common occurrence in the house for either the mother or one of the boys to start needling everybody, especially at the dinner table, until a loud argument ensued. This was normal, expected behavior, taught to the family by this mother.

Over the years I have by necessity been able to study this family dynamic, by necessity in the sense of learn to survive it or else.

Abuse by nature is all about control. There are many ways that people who wish to control, manipulate, take advantage of others can do so abusively. For abusive control to function, it takes two to tango, so to say. It takes the abuser whose intention is to dominate and it takes the victim whose fate is submission, or else…

I am coining this kind of abuse that I have learned from my in-laws "the dominance thing". Hence my title.

Here’s how it works. I’ll use myself as an example. Here’s how my wife who studied for many years under her mother’s mastery does the dominance thing to me.

It helps the dominant one if she is passive aggressive. The objective of passive aggression is just about the same as the objective of terrorism. For covert dominance to succeed the victim should already be living in constant fear of the unknown. Truly passive aggressive people will go to virtually any extreme to achieve this objective. Terrorists commit suicide to achieve it, or rather they talk people into doing that for them. Passive aggressive people commit covert sabotage to hold their victims in constant fear. They destroy whatever they need to destroy in order to be dominant. But they do it in secrecy, behind the victim’s back, using any means at their disposal. The end justifies the means. The victims never know when the dominant one will strike next, only that a strike is imminent unless they submit.

My wife is no exception. Keep in mind that this is a closely kept secret within the family. In the case of my wife and myself, only the two of us actually know about it and even she denies it. What good is a secret if everyone knows about it?

Step one is when my wife sees any weakness in me. Her downfall is that she is particularly inclined to do this to me when I am ill, when I am weak and she is my caregiver or perhaps that is when it stands out to me the most and I can observe what this does to me, the impact it has on me, my time of greatest sensitivity.

She starts by poking me with tiny little negative and hurtful statements or gestures that are supposed to be so insignificant that it would seem as an overreaction if I said anything about them, if I asked her why she just hurt me. They are so insignificant that I am supposed to just take it, whatever it is, and it’s usually a cut of some sort, a senseless negative comment or criticism or a ghost from the past perhaps that never should have even been spoken in the first place by her but since it was, it’s my job to ignore what she said or did, forget its impact on me and forgive.

Each such poke is just a tiny little prick of a needle to my soul. It hurts and it’s hard to ignore. But that’s what I should do and she knows it.

That’s step one. It can be repeated as many times as necessary but each prick has to be about one more complaint. Using the same complaint over and over won’t work. Each complaint has to be a new jab.

Step two is when I decide I’ve had enough and I react, usually to a series of these minor provocations. I get angry.

That’s in her game plan, to make me angry, to provoke me. Her mother does the exact same thing to her.

I get angry and I react, not just to the one provocation but to the whole series of them, yet it is only the most recent jab that seems to be the cause of my anger. If need be, when she sees that I am approaching the boiling point she hits me with a quick series of jabs to help me go over the line but each jab is just one tiny little poke of a needle and it’s the final one that gets remembered, gets the credit when I lose it. Just one tiny prick.

Step three is clever in that it is left entirely up to me. She knows I’m going to feel this way and it’s all part of her plan but it’s me doing this part by design.

I realize that my reaction, my anger, is way out of proportion to whatever it was that set me off. After all, it was just a little pin-prick, right?

I realize that if I am getting so upset over something so insignificant, there must be something wrong with me. It was such a tiny thing that she just said or did.

I must be abusive.

I can’t even trust myself enough to have self-control when she is saying some tiny innocent little thing.

So step three is by design meant to shatter my self-confidence.

Step four is also by design and is also something I do to myself. When things have settled back down I come to the realization that nobody except her is loving enough and tolerant enough to put up with this kind of abuse from me. Abuse from me, not from her. I am the one who responded in anger against her. I am the abuser.

Step five is when I conclude I am lucky to have someone that tolerant in my life.

Step six is that she is now in control and she can use me any way she wants. I am broken.

It’s kind of like breaking in a horse - breaking a horse’s will to make her submit to your needs or desires. Same kind of thing. And it sucks big time when it‘s humans being broken.

So that’s how this dominance thing works. To me it practically defines passive aggressive behavior. The aggressor is seen as the victim while the real victim is seen as the abuser and takes all the blame.

So a heads up to any readers of this post. Maybe you have noticed I have named no names. Furthermore you have absolutely no reason to imagine that what you have just read is non-fiction. Even if it happened to be non-fiction, it would be subject to my own personal perspective and may not be actual in objective reality. It makes no difference, though, because the story remains the same any way you want to observe it.


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